Kentucky Renaissance Faire keeps up flair with new attractions

-A A +A
By Brad Bowman

The Kentucky Renaissance Faire offers new and staple attractions including a gypsy encampment; a Guinness World Record breaking juggler/fire breather and a royal court jester show for all the lords and ladies in your family.


The Pickled Brothers Circus show will keep the crowds and crown mesmerized with circus stunts involving the fire eating and breathing brothers Travis Fessler and Erik Kloeker. Travis Fessler formed the troupe and they along with Fessler’s wife, Susan Fessler, have performed on the Tonight Show and appeared on Guinness World Records.

“I was a kid’s party magician for many years and I wasn’t very good at it,” Fessler said. “When 8-year-olds bust you on your card tricks, it’s time for something new. I started eating fire around 1998 and in early 2000s started doing my act at street fairs and street busking. Now, I have been doing it all over the country.”

The Pickled Brothers Circus act has performed at the fair since 2006, but they continue to refine their show, taking out old things and adding in new material.

“We do core things like fire breathing, sword swallowing and lie on a bed of nails,” Fessler said. “My brother is a four-time world breaking juggler, he’s broken the upside down juggling record three times and then one for axes.”

Erik Kloeker has traveled across the world to perform and break the Guinness World Record for upside down juggling. 

“The upside down juggling record I first beat in Newport in 2007,” Kloeker said. “I was asked to come to Milan, Italy, to break the Guinness World Record on a T.V. show and in the meantime another guy broke the record and they asked me to break it again in Beijing, China.”

Kloeker got his inspiration from watching someone juggle at the Kentucky State Fair in 2002.

“I was 14 then and we started doing shows together and Travis taught me a lot of things” Kloeker said. “The juggling was self-taught and I was looking through the Guinness World Records book and saw the first record was only 55 seconds and I thought I could beat it.”

Doing so wasn’t easy.

“I first beat the record and my time was four minutes, five seconds,” Kloeker said. “The longest I’ve done it for is around six minutes. Being upside down is just hard in general and the blood is rushing to your head. It’s also hard on your abdominal muscles to hold your position in that position for such a long time.”

Unlike the Pickled Brothers Circus, the Gypsy Clan Balaur encampment is the faire’s newest attraction for children and offers a raffle prize for charity.

Rene Kelso of Louisville earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and theater arts from Eastern Kentucky University. Kelso combined her love of history and experience in theater in making the attraction a dream come true.

“We started building the encampment in February,” Kelso said. “It’s really great to have a permanent site to build on and (Kentucky Renaissance Faire General Manager) Ed (Frederick) and Director) Holly (Sprabary) are open to new ideas and letting us be creative.”

The Society for Creative Anachronism — an international group that operates as a living history society dating pre-17th Century medieval European culture — invited Kelso to join its organization, but it wasn’t the organization that hooked her.

“The Society for Creative Anachronism didn’t appeal to me. In 1993, a friend invited me down to a Renaissance faire she worked at and I was hooked,” Kelso said. “I did a lot of backstage things at Eastern but at the fair I was more out front.”

Kelso moved back to Louisville in 2007 knowing that she would miss working at the fair.

“I called to find out about the auditions and knew this fair had just started. I told them I played a gypsy and they asked me if I would do that again,” Kelso said. “I started my character Raven Zarovich.”

Kelso dreamed about doing the gypsy encampment where people could experience what the Romany people would have been like.

“History is my first love and I want people to experience what the Romany were like,” Kelso said. “This is a chance for them to ask questions. Gypsies didn’t come into Scotland until the end of the 13th Century and were quickly banned.”

The Roma originally came from India, Kelso explained. During the time period, people were insular staying in their own villages and not traveling very often. Anyone that traveled would be considered suspicious.

“If they spoke differently than you, had different attire or came from the village down the road was suspect,” Kelso said. “They were not to be trusted. It’s written that a gypsy was a, ‘…Suspicious dusky man and with his people approached the village and the men drove them away.’”

The Gypsy Clan Balaur attraction will be children oriented with storytelling sessions during the weekend, a stuffed animal petting zoo, a gypsy singer to woo women and the clan will raffle a hand sewn doll every weekend to benefit St. Jude Children’s  Research Hospital.

“St. Jude does great work. I am about children and that’s why I wanted to do the children’s storytelling,” Kelso said. “They don’t charge the families of the children they treat and it’s something we can do for them.”

Kelso said everything at the encampment was done with children in mind. Everything is painted with bright colors and includes an activity with building blocks that turned out to be a big draw.

“We have a sign here which says dare to dream and that is the gypsy clan motto,” Kelso said. “This has been my dream for the last four years and I’ve accomplished it. We will do a lot more here and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

For more information about the Kentucky Renaissance Faire visit: www.kyrenfaire.com

Watch Kloeker on Italian television beating the world record at : www.vimeo.com/11210396

Find out more information about gypsy encampment on Facebook under the name  The Clan Balaur.